Here’s a bonus sneak peek of a chapter of Falling in Love With Baseball including a special bonus video! Enjoy!
This message was written to Willie Mays’s personal assistant, Rene. I got a nice reply back from Rene, who assured me she would read this to Willie. Because his 85th birthday was days away, I’d sent Willie a box of Snickers bars, his favorite. Rene confirmed the Snickers had arrived early and that my idol had already hidden them away in his bedroom! It gave me tremendous happiness to repay Willie in a small way for all the thrills he has provided me, both in his playing days and even now. I was also delighted that he’d hidden my small gift to enjoy all by himself!
I wanted to recognize and honor Willie for what he accomplished fifty years ago tonight! He hit his 512th home run to surpass another Giants legend, Mel Ott, and set the record for the National League. My brother, father, and I were there that May 4th night in 1966.
Every year my father’s employer, American Airlines, had a few group outings to the Giants games. They tried to include a few Dodgers games on these group outings. It seemed that every year during the 1960s, the Giants and Dodgers fought a close bitter battle for the NL pennant. We didn’t have great seats. But we were still in the lower deck behind third base. I can still see that ball sail over the right field fence like it happened yesterday.
It was the first historic home run that I witnessed firsthand. It was a huge thrill for all of my family. But it was especially thrilling for me. I will never forget my late father turning to me and saying, Chris! Your man did it for you tonight! Indeed, it felt like Willie knew his biggest fan, a thirteen-year-old from Fremont, was in attendance. Isn’t it special what we can believe in our innocent youth? It is hard to believe that special moment when Willie lined that ball over the right field fence was fifty years ago!
I know Willie has heard these stories untold times over the years. But I’d really appreciate it if you could read this to him. He made one thirteen-year-old boy ecstatic that night. For some reason, even though I was a kid, every time I saw Willie play, I realized that I was witnessing something very special. He thrilled me so many times over the years. He was the best ever! I know Willie played hard day in and day out, sometimes to exhaustion, for the fans as well as the Giants.
Please tell him:
Thank you for all the thrills!
I’ve found an old newsreel video of Willie’s historic 512th home run. As I remembered Willie hit it out to right field. Willie was such a gifted ballplayer that he quickly adjusted his swing to take advantage of the strong gale that normally blew out to right field at The Stick! Here’s the video from that night: